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OpenLearn Live: 27th July 2015

Updated Monday, 27th July 2015

We're spending some time in the park this week - plus, all the free learning, research and insight we can fit in.

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This page will be updated across the day - or, keep an eye on our Twitter feed @OpenLearnLive.

On Friday, we explored PVC, coffee art, the Labour leadership and much more

See all OpenLearn Live

Today's Posts

What is MERS?

It's being reported that Manchester Royal Infirmary has been closed due to a suspected case of MERS.

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome virus particles attached to the surface of an infected VERO E6 cell. Creative commons image Icon NIAID under CC-BY licence under Creative-Commons license

What do you need to know about MERS? Try our explainer article; if you'd like something more advanced, we've got a more technical explanation about the emergence of the virus.

Free Online Course: Seeing the light

A new course on OpenLearn this week - ready for you to study whenever suits you.

Leaves in the sunshine Creative commons image Icon Serenity / CC BY 2.0 under Creative-Commons license

It's called Seeing The Light, and explores our relationship with the Sun. The big burning thing in the sky, not the newspaper:

This course will teach you about how the Sun affects your home, both in terms of light and warmth and the energy it generates. You will learn about how it can affect your health and wellbeing, and how homes in different climates are designed differently to maximise the benefits of the Sun. You’ll start by seeing the consequences of living without enough light, before going on to think about how building shapes and orientations can affect our comfort levels in terms of warmth and light.

Try the free course Seeing the light

See more International Year of Light content

FutureLearn this week

Just a couple of new courses starting this week over with our friends at FutureLearn: From Colombia's University of Los Andes, there's Reading Macondo: the Works of Gabriel García Márquez. And from The Open University, you can study Elements of Renewable Energy.

Happy Birthday, Bugs Bunny

Today is Bugs Bunny's 75th birthday - or, at least, the 75th annivesary of his first official appearance in the cartoon A Wild Hare.

So, he's now an older bunny - but we've always known what he'd be like in his later years, as he was shown in a flash forward in the 1940s. The odd thing, though, was that his accent has changed from a New York wiseacre to something closer to a mountain-dweller. In fact, the idea that older people would sound like they came from the Ozarks is something of a trope in American popular culture, especially from the middle of the last sentence. John McWorther has a theory as to why:

1930's was the first census that revealed more Americans living in cities than in the country. Until then, for Americans, rural life was default. The City was the challenging, debauched setting depicted in tragic novels by Theodore Dreiser. The Country was the real America, such that Sinclair Lewis could write Main Street about Carol Kennicott suffering the boredom of little Gopher Prairie, Minnesota and be feted as capturing "America" itself. 

Read Why does Bugs Bunny become rural as he gets older?

Listen over (late) lunch: St James' Park

As a companion to our start-up segment for this week, and assuming you've held off lunch waiting for us to suggest something to listen to, how about a soundscape of St James' Park in Newcastle? The park itself, rather than the football ground. In fact, it's the neighbours who colour this edition of BBC Radio 4's Soundstage:

Over the next few hours the park and city are transformed as fans gather for the match. Many arrive at Newcastle Central Station where their enthusiastic and almost deafening chants, are punctuated by the growls and barks of police dogs. The fans are escorted to the stadium. Inside, the match is an orchestra of sound as the voices of the fans ring out with excitement and anticipation, despondency and joy until the final whistle is blown. After the match, the fans disperse, and then the real magpies, return to the park to their night roost; their wild sounds filling the air. 

Listen to Soundstage: St James' Park

Is football music to your ears? Try our Business Of Football free course


Obama In Africa

As President Obama arrives in Ethiopia on the latest stage of his African tour, a quick reading list:

At The Conversation, Scott Firsing explains why Africa matters to the US:

One clear objective is to increase and diversify US-Africa trade, particularly American exports to the continent. There has been a dramatic shift in trade balance thanks, in part, to increased US shale gas production which has reduced oil imports from the continent.

US-Africa trade was US$73 billion in 2014, US$38.1 billion being American exports and US$34.6 billion in imports. From January-April 2015, the US exported US$8.8 billion worth of goods to Africa and imported US$8.3 billion.

For the first time, total American exports to Africa in 2014 were greater than the value of its total imports from the continent. Seven years ago there was a US$88bn trade deficit.

The slowdown in US oil imports means China’s trade with the continent has flown past America. China-Africa trade at US$222 billion in 2014 is now three times greater than US-Africa trade.

Some observers thought Obama shouldn't be going to Ethiopia at all...

Last month, Ethiopians voted in parliamentary elections, where opposition parties said the voting was not free or fair. The African Union said the elections were peaceful, but fell short of using the words “free and fair.” While noting that the elections were peaceful, the US State Department expressed concern about restrictions on civil society, the news media, opposition parties, and independent voices and views.

... While some Nigerians were glad he wasn't visiting them

Nigeria should be allowed some time to reflect and articulate the kind of relationship it wants or needs to have with the United State of America.

In that regards, in my opinion, in think that Nigeria have moved beyond President Obama and that Nigeria is impatiently waiting for President Hilary Clinton to press the restart button of US Nigeria new relationship after redefining the basis of this new relationship to be in consideration of our mutual areas of interest such as trade and finance, AFRICOM, UN Security Council seat for Nigeria, etc… […]We are happy to receive John Kerry and maybe Uncle Joe Biden.

Parks & Recreation week: Birkenhead Park

Good morning; welcome to another week of regular bursts of free learning from OpenLearn and beyond.

Finally, finally, finally, the UK is getting the fourth season of Parks And Recreation this week, and to celebrate our start-up segment every day this week is going to celebrate a great park.

Birkenhead Park Lake Creative commons image Icon Sue Adair under CC-BY-SA under Creative-Commons license

We're going to start in Birkenhead, at Birkenhead Park. It's a good place to start a week touring parks, as by common agreement, this park in Wirral was the first publiclly-funded park in Britain. This, if you like, is the original park and its influence isn't just seen in parks elsewhere around the country - Joseph Paxton's 1847 design was a major influence on Frederick Law Olmsted's plans for Central Park in New York. After visiting the open space in 1850, Olmsted was hugely impressed, saying:

 "Five minutes of admiration, and a few more spent studying the manner in which art had been employed to obtain from nature so much beauty, and I was ready to admit that in democratic America there was nothing to be thought of as comparable with this People's Garden."

1879 plan of Birkenhead Park Copyright free  image Icon Copyright free: via Wikimedia Commons An early plan of Birkenhead Park

It might slightly dent Birkenhead civic pride that the original impetus for the park came from across the Mersey - it was a Liverpool Councillor, Isaac Holmes, who suggested there be a public open space. In the sort of model that sounds familiar in 2015, the land was purchased cheaply and much of the project was funded by selling housing on the edge of the land.

If there's influence from across the Mersey, there's also a strong link to Wirral's neighbours across the Dee as well. In 1917, the National Eisteddfod of Wales was held in the park - with David Lloyd George in attendance. The event is marked by a celebratory scuplture that still stands in the park.

More on the history of Birkenhead Park

Another great Victorian endeavour: celebrating the Naturalists of Victorian England

Parks and Recreation is on Dave, tonight, at 9pm






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